by Amanda Sladky, a Doxa counselor.
We are taking a risk here. We are naming and shaming something that the world around us wants you to just “get over” as well as the resulting guilt and shame when it feels, and actually is, impossible to “get over.”
If you are a human being, the chances are high that you have experienced grief in some capacity in your lifetime. For many, it feels all too common.
What is Grief?
Grief is a process that includes many different emotions such as loss, longing, and feeling lost. Grief continues with us throughout our life, it never totally resolves or leaves us. In reality, we adapt to grief, and it eventually find its place in our lives. Rather than hiding it or ignoring it, it is helpful when we honor it in us.
You may have heard of the grief process or grief cycle, but research shows that grief is not linear or predictable and that everyone experiences grief differently. Just as you have fingerprints that are different from the person next to you, your experience with grief will look different from others as well. I think this is an important piece of information that can be helpful in prevention shame related to our grief experience.
Types of Grief
There are three main different types of grief that research agrees on, then one more type that is less-research, but I think it invaluable to human experiences.
In Brené Brown’s newest book “The Atlas of the Heart” she shares definitions published by The Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia as well as a definition of Disenfranchised Grief that is based on the research of Tashel Bordere. Below are the definitions adapted from her book:
Acute Grief occurs immediately after a loss for a period of time. It typically includes symptoms of shock, distress, yearning, longing, sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt and/or shame. It dominates a person’s life and will slowly diminish with time.
Integrated Grief is the result of adaptation to the loss. Grief is not over for them, but thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related to their loss in integrated in ways that allow them to remember and honor the person who died.
Complicated Grief occurs when something interferes with adaptation. Acute grief persists for a very long period of time and grief dominates their thoughts and feelings with no respite in sight. Life without their loved one seems purposeless and family and friend relationships struggle.
Disenfranchised Grief (based on research of Tashel Bordere) is not acknowledge or supported because the experience is not valued as loss by others. It can also be invisible or hard to see by others. Examples include loss of a partner or parent due to divorce, loss of an unborn child and/or infertility, the multitude losses experienced by a survivor of sexual assault (loss of one’s prior worldview, loss of trust, loss of self-identity and self-esteem, loss of freedom and independence, loss of sense of safety and security, and loss of sexual interest), and the loss of a loved one to suicide.
What to Do With Your Grief
When grief enters into our lives, we have a need for it to be witnessed, to be heard. We have a desire for connection. Depending on the depth of the grief someone is experiencing, they may have the tools and ability to allow that grief to find its place in their lives. This may look like creating a memorial for a loved one or journaling through emotions related to grief or loss. I have seen people plant a tree or a plant in someone’s name, create a shadow box of memories, write a poem, or plan what they will do on harder dates related to their loss.
Others may find family or friends who are a great support system. People who can join them in making sense of their grief, without trying to fix it. Someone who can hear them and sit with them. Some people find group therapy or support groups important for their healing experience.
Then others, particularly those who are working through complicated grief, require a mental health professional. Therapy can be the best gift you can give yourself in relation to your healing.
Grief and loss seem to be inevitable in this life on earth. I have found myself sitting on the other side of the room with clients suffering with loss and pain in their lives. While I wish the pain away for every person I sit across (and honestly away from all the earth), I find it a great privilege to be a safe place for clients to be heard, seen, valued, and cared for as they explore or sit in their grief and suffering.
If you relate to any of this, or find yourself in a difficult season of grief or loss, know that you do not have to be alone in it. Please call or click on the form below, I would love to provide the space you need .
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